The Toucan Barbet is a species very similar to the Prong-billed Barbet in terms of shape and size, however it is way more colorful. It has a deep red eye on a black mask and front head. The bill is pale with colors ranging from yellowish to light blue, and a black tip in the upper mandible. The throat and cheeks are gray. The chest and belly are red, while the back and flanks are dull orange. The wings and the tail are dark with some orange tones. In terms of behavior, we saw this species approach the feeders in groups up to three individuals, although a single individual came alone sometimes. They move display slow movements characteristic of the toucan family, moving the head from one side to another, and then jumping out in bursts of activity.
The Crimson-rumped Toucanet is very similar in body form to the Emerald Toucanet, however there are key differences in their coloration. For a start, the beak of this Colombia species is red instead of black, with a white patch on the very base of the bill. It lacks the big purple patch of feathers on the face, but has a smaller turquoise patch by below the eye. The underparts are lighter green than the upper parts, and there is a small turquoise patch on the belly as well, which is not present on the Emerald. Like most toucans, their presence signals other species that is time to leave, as they will readily predate eggs and hatchlings, and we saw this behavior happen at the feeders in Finca Alejandría, as the feeders would empty whenever this bird approached. Also in true toucan fashion, their overall movement are slow, with spurts of fast activity.
The Keel-billed Toucan is the one bird we all know about. It is featured in all brochures and advertising around tourism in Costa Rica. It’s colorful beak is amazing. As with all Toucans species though, this bird will raid other species’ nests, so it is common to see that other birds harass them, trying to scare them away. In particular, I have seen Great Kiskadees acting aggressively towards them in an effort to divert them from their nest. They are smaller than the Yellow-throated Toucan, which has a duller beak than the Keel-billed. Both species are very common in the Caribbean lowlands, and both like to eat a variety of fruits, readily coming to fruit feeders. One of the most interesting traits of this bird is its song, which resembles the croaking of a frog. They move their heads very slowly from one side to the other, then remains motionless for a few seconds, and suddenly jumps and turns around 180 degrees before falling in the same branch, an entire spectacle.
The Collared Aracari is very similar to the Fiery-billed Aracari, but the upper part of the beak does not have the green-yellow-red coloration found on the Fiery-billed, and the ring around the belly is darker; also the ranges do not overlap, with the Fiery-billed Aracari seen in the Central and South Pacific, and the Collared Aracari seen in the Caribbean and the Northern Pacific. Both the Fiery and Collared Aracaris have a bright red rump, which differentiates them to the Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, which have white rumps. The juveniles have a very similar coloration, however their beaks and chest are duller in appearance, and overall the plumage is fluffier. The Collared Aracari is known in Costa Rica as the Gangster, as they always come in groups, bullying other birds that may be at food sources.
The Yellow-throated Toucan is the bird most people think of when we say toucan. It is one of the species that appears on books and tourism guides, the other one being the Keel-billed Toucan, which is smaller. I had heard the calls of these birds, but I did not know it was this toucan until I got close enough to see the birds. All Toucans have a feature in common: While they like to eat fruit and small amphibians, they also predate nests, either for eggs or hatchlings. Most other bird species in Costa Rica are fearful of any kind of toucan, and some of them react violently to their presence, in an effort to steer them away from their nests. Only big predator birds (like the Crested Hawk-Eagle) are known to predate on them.
I have observed an interesting behavior many times: Tanagers, Orioles and Honeycreepers were feeding peacefully on the feeder, but whenever a Toucan closed in, all the other birds flew away and stayed in a nearby tree, calling and calling loudly. As soon as the Toucan left, all birds returned to the feeder in frenetic mode, like food was going to end soon.